After returning from just a week in Paris, my mind was overflowing with thoughts to share. Among them were random, but practical tips for visiting Paris. I tend to over-research my trips (type A, I know, but it allows me to relax when I arrive!) and gathered together some observations:
How to Plan. Once we had our wish list of places to go and things to do, I set about organizing them by arrondissement to make the most of each day. I even went so far as to make daily maps with our itineraries, which I didn’t end up using (more on this later). Aside from geographical efficiencies, I also try to vary the activity level to avoid burn out. For example, a tour at the Louvre was followed by a walk and picnic in the Jardin Tuileries so the kids could stretch their legs, run around and refuel to walk along the Champs d’Elysses to the Arc de Triomphe. Even if you’re more of a go-with-the-flow type, there are certain sights for which planning ahead will save hours of standing in line. Versailles, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower are my top picks for booking in advance.
What to Pack. A bit intimidated by the fashion capital of the world, I let cuteness outweigh comfort. I can’t tell you how many times I regretted leaving behind my running shoes. Now, I wouldn’t wear old or clunky ones, but everyone — locals included — was wearing sneakers. The street style we’ve been seeing at home is definitely evident in Paris too. I saw lots of sneakers, comfortable boots, jackets and scarves. (Side note: I didn’t see any black leggings or yoga pants, so leave those Lululemons for the airplane ride.) Leave behind the stilettos unless you have a specific event to wear them to, I brought block heel pumps for a couple dinners only.
Getting Around. I will admit that we generally shy away from public transportation in foreign countries, especially when (as in Paris) we don’t speak the language. Our friends told us about Citymapper, a fantastic and easy to use app that you can download on your phone. Simply type in your destination and it’ll give you three options for how to get there — by foot, train or car. The train seemed intimidating but Citymapper made it exceptionally easy — it told us which line to take, stop (and how many) to get on and off on, and even where to sit on the train to be closer to the exit. The train was the fastest and most reliable mode of getting around. Your existing Uber account and app also works in Paris, but traffic may make the train a better option.
-Get your Euros before you leave.
-Ask your credit card company about charges for international purchases and let them know you’ll be overseas to avoid dealing with holds while you’re out there.
-Learn a few phrases in French. Most people speak English but they appreciate the effort.
Photo of the Musee d’Orsay courtesy of RevolvingDecor.com.